Keeping a well-stocked supply of non-perishable foods is a good idea even in the best of times and especially important in emergency situations. That said, there's never a reason to hoard. Others need food, too and not everyone can afford to load up their cart all at once.
Clear a space in your home and get ready to become prepared. Here's how to start building a perfect pantry with enough goods to whip up a classic spaghetti alla puttanesca, batch of chili, or breakfast bowl.
Make a List
Don't join the hordes of people lined up at the grocery store without a list. Print and use our helpful list above as a guide to stock your pantry to last for at least two weeks.
The next question to ask is, "What do my family and I like to eat?" Make sure that you are buying what you already like. Stocking up on Vienna sausages or canned asparagus that no one wants to snack on won't help anyone prepare. Instead, look for foods that can either be turned into a favorite meal or an ingredient that you like all on its own. Some options that most people enjoy include pasta, canned or jarred tomatoes, peanut butter, black beans, corn, and prepared soups. It can also help to look at some simple pantry-geared recipes to get an idea of what will go together in the end.
Figure Out How Much You Need
Before making the shopping list, figure out just how many people will be eating and the number of meals, including snacks, that everyone needs each day. It is likely that if you are self-isolating, you will be making all of your own meals. For example, a basic 15- to 16-ounce can of beans can be portioned out into about four servings, perfect for a family with two adults and two small children. So if beans are on the menu once a day for a week, seven cans are needed.
If someone loves peaches, but hates canned pineapple, also take this into account. No one needs 10 cans of chicken noodle soup when only one person likes it. And if someone is a vegetarian or has dietary concerns, make sure that's noted when buying goods to stock the pantry with. Also think about the pantry space you have to put all this in. Overstocking the pantry can lead to a lot of food hanging out where kids, animals, sunlight, moisture and anything else can get to it if there isn't a dedicated spot for it all.
Jarred and Canned Foods
Some canned vegetables are tastier than others. For example, canned tomatoes taste like a ripe tomato, where most canned peas can be mushy and lack flavor. Canned corn or green beans work well when thrown into a casserole or stew, but the carrot version may be too soft for even cooked applications. It's good to also look at the list of ingredients in your canned foods, to keep track of added salt and sugar.
Jars of food will also keep well for a time, especially if in a dark, cool cupboard. Peaches can be very pleasing this way and add a sweet fruitiness to a kid's meal or bowl of oatmeal. Jams and marmalade will last for years, and if peanut butter is thrown into the mix, a simple lunch will be set for weeks. Don't forget about the pickles, this method of preservation adds a bright salinity to meals. Just about anything can be pickled, from beets to garlic to okra.
Keep carbs handy. Not only does this type of food last for a long time, but it's energy giving as well. You should have enough all-purpose and other flours for bread and baked goods. Pasta is easy to stock up on and different noodle types such as spaghetti, farfalle, shells, rigatoni and so on keep meals interesting. Don't overlook orzo—it's a pasta that looks like a large grain of rice that's easy to throw into soups, toss with roasted veggies, and spruce up with Parmesan and pepper.
Also on the carb side, having a big-box-store sized bag of rice is never a bad idea. It stays good for a long time and can serve so many people for a long time. There are many types of rice to work with too, such as wild, forbidden, brown, and basmati.
Oats are a good choice and can be sweet or savory. Cornmeal is wonderful in cornbread, pancakes, as breading, and let's not forget polenta.
Grains also can be kept in the pantry, though they don't last as long and must be in a sealed container. With these you need more of a plan to use, like in granola or as a porridge.
While canned beans are fine, dried beans actually last longer when stored in a cool, dry spot. Stock up on various types of these legumes and get ready to make chili, stews, dips, and cassoulet while hunkering down in the house. Keep a can or jar of tahini with those dried chickpeas so protein-rich hummus can be made on demand.
Though at first, it may seem odd, meat actually does really well in the pantry, too. Aged salami and jerky can last months in a dry, dark place and even longer in the fridge. Canned or jarred fish also play well when stocked up. Tuna is an obvious choice, but also look into canned salmon, smoked oysters, sardines, and anchovies, which can add substance and umami to countless pasta and rice dishes.
And let's not forget SPAM, canned ham, canned chicken and other canned deviled meats. All of these last a long time on the shelf. Also seek out canned corned beef, which can be dumped into a frying pan to make a quick and easy hash straight from the cupboard.
Don't Forget Fresh Foods
Fresh foods are still available and, when stored properly, can last weeks or even months. Look around in your store: the vegetables that are not refrigerated are the ones to lean on here. Mainly we're talking about root vegetables, potatoes, onions, garlic, hard squashes, lemons and apples. All these foods keep well in a cool, dry, dark place. Long ago this was called the root cellar, but since modern homes don't have them, it's fine to store potatoes, yams, and shallots in the pantry.
Cooking and Baking Ingredients
While the aforementioned foods can all be eaten as is, it's also good to keep things in the pantry that help when cooking or baking. Flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and spices can all last well when unopened or stored in an airtight container (here's how you can check if they're still good). Olive oil and vegetable oil also should be kept in the pantry. Don't forget the vinegar either, both a nice balsamic or apple cider (for dressings, finishing a dish, or mixed into beverages) and white vinegar for just about anything else.